Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Rule of Ten Thousand!

Are you willing and are you able to put in the work to improve?  Yes?  Well then.  Do you know what kind of work is required?  I have said, for years.  It takes 10,000 reps to change something in the swing for a hitter.  Here is why.

Improving something is changing something.  You know what they say about the definition of insanity is when we continue to do the same things over and over but expecting things to change".  An athlete needs to first be open to change to begin to make some adjustments.

To improve we must know what needs to be fixed and what needs to remain.  This is why lessons are important.  Usually, those of us that give lessons have years of experience with athletes in dealing with this exact thing.  We are good and seeing what you need to change.  We then show and tell you (teach you) about these things.  

Once you know what needs to be fixed you need to understand why and understand how to fix it.  Again, that is what we do in lessons.  We will often give you homework during a lesson.  If you don't understand, ask. 

Everything else is relatively easy compared to this part.  We have to work hard which takes repetition and this takes energy and time.  How much?  I say 10,000 swings to make a change for a hitter.  Why so many?

Well, it will take a few hundred or more so you can just get down the routine of the drills you will use to get this work in.  

-Developing Consistency
You MUST perform this skill correctly and consistently.  If not, your "muscle memory" will get completely confused.  You are going to have to think through each swing. This may take about a 1000 swings to get it exactly right.

-Changing Your DNA
Well, of course, you aren't really changing your DNA but you do need to develop this swing to the point it is natural without thought to fully prepare for the heat of competition.  This is the hard part and this is the part that so many fails.  They may put in the first thousand swings but the last 5-7 thousand is the part that really matters.  It might even get a little boring.  Doing something over and over again for 1000's of times but this is the only way you can make this change game ready.  

-On Your Own
Your team practice is very important but most practices are dedicated to team skills and it is difficult to allow time to really work on your hitting.  This type of work requires you to be able to work on your own.  If you want to be great you can't rely upon JUST your practices and lessons.  They are both important but the great players work on their own!

10,000 swings really shouldn't take you that long.  A hitter can get 100 swings in no time at all.  Depending on some factors you could get 100 swings in 10-15 minutes pretty easily.  So, maybe 300 swings in a half hour or a little more.    

So, depending on your age and the skill you are trying to change as some will require less work and others will receive more work, you could get this 10,000 goal completed in 10-15 days of hard work.  

Yes, there are some exceptions to the 10,000 rule but there is not a substitute for this kind of hard work.  This IS what makes the difference between good and great hitters!


Have you found yourself thinking or even saying, "We talk about this all the time" or something like this?  This is why the post-game talk doesn't work.  They yelling doesn't work and the teaching from third base coaches box doesn't work.  Skill changes require repetition to the point it changes our DNA.  Telling is just the first part.

Have a great day!
Holly Knight

Lessons With Holly
National Fastpitch Academy

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Attack Angle & Launch Angle for Hitters

I was doing a lesson yesterday with a hitter at the Legends Sports Academy in Louisville.  They have a device there called HitTrax.  It is a pretty cool machine.  (Legends and HitTrax links are below)  The HitTrax does some fun things like showing where the ball goes on a virtual field.  It is a little like a video game.  However, it does some other things like track Exit Velocity, Distance Hitting the ball and Launch Angle.

I will admit that it took me a little while figuring out all this stuff.  After I worked with four of my hitters and I even hit on it a few times myself, I discovered a few things.
I was noticing the launch angle was really high and it didn't seem to match what I thought was important.  You see, I have been using the Blast Technology for a few years now and my original thought was that the attack angle and launch angle were the same but the numbers the HitTrax was giving me were super confusing.  Then I had a duh moment. Here is what I determined:

The launch angle metrics are achieved through the HitTrax and is the flight of the ball after contact.  It is based on the concept that 0 degrees is level with the ground and anything negative is toward the ground with the positive numbers indicating the ball "in the air".  The higher the number the higher the flight of the ball.  

I get the attack angle for my hitters through the Blast Device.  It does a great job testing the metrics BEFORE contact and right at contact.  The device is placed on the knob of the bat.  A 0 degree is where the bat is going toward and contacting the ball in a level path.  A negative number is where the path is attacking downward and a positive number is where the bat path is in an upward direction.  We once called this an uppercut.

If you look at the bat path going to and through the ball in the photo to the right, this illustrating a negative attack angle.  

This photo also is showing the path of the ball after contact which is the launch angle.  It is interesting to note, in this photo that  I took from the internet, this is showing a way to achieve backspin.


Yes, so, simply said.  Attack angle is your bat path what we have called uppercut, level swing and chopping for a billion years.  Okay, maybe not a billion years but probably as long as we have had bats and balls.  Like so many things, it is just a new way of saying things.  
Oh yeah, launch angle is another way of saying, ground ball, line drive or fly ball.  
Ultimately, what we need to remember is what our goal is as in what type of hitter we are and that will determine what Launch Angle we are attempting to achieve and the Attack Angle that will help us achieve that.  That is what we work on every day in every lesson.  This information just helps us achieve our goals.

In the orange photo to the right, you will see an illustration describing Launch Angle.  Interesting enough, this does not include the effect of backspin but it does explain Launch Angle.

If the hitter is a slap hitter/speed type of hitter where they want to avoid flyballs and hit a lot of balls on the ground their launch angles should be around 0 to a negative number.  Hitters that are line drive type hitters should be around 10-15 probably and home run hitters could be around 20-30.  Anything over 20 should come from a hitter that has true home run power where they can make mistakes in the air and still hit the ball 200 plus feet.

The "missing link" in all this is the contact point on the ball which is for another day and another blog but generally speaking the attack angle and contact point determines the launch angle...and more.

I hope this helps explain what these two terms are.  Prior to technology being able to measure this, it was always just a visual evaluation but now it is one of the numerous metrics we can test and of which we can learn.  They also help us teach the swing a little better.  However, this doesn't replace hard work, overall knowledge, and experience.  It just helps it.

Have a fantastic day!

Holly Knight